Handsworth, South Yorkshire
Handsworth shown within Sheffield
|Metropolitan county||South Yorkshire|
|Region||Yorkshire and the Humber|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||Yorkshire and the Humber|
|UK Parliament||Sheffield South East|
Handsworth is a suburb of south eastern Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, England. Handsworth has a population of approximately 15,000. It covers an area of approximately 5 square miles (13 km2). It has five schools, four churches, a variety of small shops, a large supermarket (whose former site was featured in The Full Monty),[not verified in body] and a range of commercial and light industrial businesses.
Today, Handsworth is a busy suburb in the south-east part of the City of Sheffield, although some of the older citizens of Handsworth still refer to it as "the village". Politically, Handsworth is part of the Woodhouse ward in the Sheffield South East parliamentary constituency.
St Mary's Parish Centre holds displays of artefacts, documents, records, photographs and maps relating to Handsworth and its history.
There is little recorded detail about Handsworth prior to the Norman Conquest. Roman soldiers had a settlement and fort nearby at Templeborough, although no evidence of Roman remains have been unearthed in Handsworth. Names such as Ballifield ("Bale Enclosure") indicate later Scandinavian settlements at the same site.
In the Domesday Book account, Handsworth is spelt "Handeswrde" and is joined to Whiston ("Witestan") to form a single manor. Before the Conquest, Torchil (or Turchil) is reported as being the Lord of the Manor, but following the Conquest lordship was transferred to Robert, Count of Mortain, who was the half-brother of William the Conqueror. Richard de Sourdeval held it for Count Robert. The Manor then passed, through marriage, to the Paynel and Lovetot families. It was a member of the Lovetot family who built the parish church in Handsworth.
In a survey in 1379 there were reported to be 9 smiths and perhaps one cutler in Sheffield, but by that time, Handsworth had 13 smiths and 3 cutlers. Clearly,[according to whom?] the ancient parish of Handsworth had its own identity and history, almost as extensive as that of the City into which it became absorbed.
St. Mary's Church
St Mary's was built in about 1170. It was founded by the Norman lord William de Lovetot, or his father Richard, and the foundations were planned by William Paynel. (This church is not to be confused with St. Mary's Church, Handsworth in Birmingham UK).
Close to St Mary's Church is the Cross Keys Inn, a very old building that has not always been a public house. It was originally built in the mid-13th century as a Church House for the chaplains and lay clerks attached to St Mary's Church.
Not much of the Tudor Rectory remains today. Handsworth Parish Registers, dating back as far as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I still exist. There are written documents from 1558, the year that Elizabeth I ascended the throne, recording all baptisms, marriages, and burials which took place in the Parish of St Mary's.
Handsworth sword dancers
One aspect of Handsworth history which remains very much alive is the traditional sword dancing. The origins of this ancient ritual are unknown, but written records held by the team go back to the middle of the nineteenth century.
Using long steel swords, a team of eight men perform a dance which lasts about nine minutes and ends with all the swords being interlocked and held aloft by one man. Traditional music is played and the dancers wear a military style uniform similar to the Dragoons.
Formerly there were two clowns who performed for the crowd and collected money. At Christmas time, the sword dancers would tour the local villages and public houses. The sword dancing continued until the First World War and there was a revival of interest during the late 1920s. It survived through the Second World War because the sword dancers had priority occupations in the coal mines and in the steel works, so they were not conscripted.
The traditional dancing on Boxing Day in Handsworth and Woodhouse was revived in 1963, and in 1976 the clowns were reintroduced, though they later lapsed. The historic sight of Handsworth sword dancing can still be seen on Boxing Day (or the day after if it falls on a Sunday). They dance at Woodhouse Cross at 11.15 and in front of St Mary's Church, Handsworth, at noon. The dancers and their audience then adjourn to the pub for well-earned refreshment and communal Carol singing.
The local association football team, Handsworth F.C., competed in the Northern Counties East Football League Division One for the 2011-12 season.
The Stayce Family in Handsworth
The Handsworth Parish Registers reveal that on 1 July 1638, Mahlon Stayce was baptised in St. Mary's Church. The Stayce family had lived at Ballifield Hall in Handsworth for centuries but it was in Trenton, New Jersey, in America, that Mahlon made his name and his fortune.
The Stayce family were Quakers, one of the new religious sects which surfaced in England after the English Civil War. They dissented from traditional views and to "respectable" society, the Quakers appeared extreme and even revolutionary. Their leader, George Fox, preached on Cinder Hill Green in Handsworth to thousands of people in the 1650s.
Under the parliamentary rule of Oliver Cromwell, Quakers were treated with suspicion and hostility. During the restoration monarchy of Charles II, persecution of the Quakers was severe, especially in the early years, as they still refused to conform, even outwardly, to the Church of England. Their refusal to take off their hats or speak respectfully when in the presence of "nobles" made them a particular object of hatred.
Some members of the Stayce are buried in their own special Quaker graveyard at Cinder Hill in Handsworth. In total, there are eight grave stones with plain inscriptions. This private family cemetery still exists, but it is now in the back garden of a house.
Mahlon Stayce in Trenton, New Jersey
In his youth, Mahlon Stayce, in common with a great many other Quakers, decided to leave England. He and his family emigrated to America in the 1670s to begin a new life away from hatred and persecution.
At this time the North American land mass was still being explored, colonised and fought over by a rival Europeans. It provided the perfect opportunity for a person such as Mahlon to make a fresh start in a land where he could practise his Quaker religion in freedom.
He was given permission to build a new settlement on his new home by the River Delaware. Gradually, this settlement grew into Trenton, the capital of what is now called New Jersey. The first Church in Trenton was founded by Mahlon Stayce who lived out the rest of his life in America.
Mahlon died a wealthy and respected citizen. Some present day citizens of Trenton can trace their family histories back to one or another of the daughters of Mahlon Stayce.
A link between the Stayce families times in England and America still exists in the form of "Ballifield" — the name of the State House in New Jersey and the district adjacent to Handsworth.
Another, more famous, Quaker buried near Handsworth is Benjamin Huntsman. Although he was born in Lincolnshire, he lived for some years at Handsworth in the 1740s. Huntsman made a highly significant scientific discovery which enabled Sheffield to develop from small township into one of the leading northern industrial cities that shaped the destiny of Victorian Britain.
Huntsman revolutionised the technology of steel making through his invention was "cast" or "crucible steel". Whilst in Handsworth, he developed the process whereby it became possible to melt down raw or "blister steel" and produce cast ingots of steel. This required an extremely high temperature of 1600 degrees Celsius, something which had never been achieved before in the steel industry. In order to produce and sustain such a high temperature in his furnace, Huntsman used coke instead of charcoal. To contain the steel he designed a clay crucible which could withstand the severe temperature and possible attack of the metal.
It seems probable that Hunstman moved to Handsworth because he was aware of the nearby glassworks in Catcliffe where vessels were used in which the materials were melted at very high temperatures. Huntsman found that he could benefit in Handsworth not only from the experience of the glass makers but also from the ready access to refractory materials and fireclays in the Sheffield district.
By devising this process of crucible steel making, Benjamin Huntsman transformed the nature of steel making in Sheffield and thereby made a most significant contribution to England's "industrial revolution".
Without crucible steel, Sheffield could not have emerged as the major steel producing town in Europe. In 1740, Sheffield produced only 200 tons of steel per year; by 1860, this total had risen, because of the application of Huntsman's techniques, to over 80,000 tons per year — almost half of Europe's total tonnage.
Initially, Huntsman's achievements were given scant recognition in Sheffield. The local cutlers thought the new steel was too hard and difficult to handle. But rival Europeans nations, especially France, quickly took advantage of the superior quality of crucible steel. Eventually, this competition from overseas encouraged the Sheffield cutlers to adopt Huntsman's methods, thereby laying the foundations of Sheffield's Industrial Heritage.
William Jeffcock, Sheffield's first Lord Mayor
William Jeffcock was born in April 1800 in Handsworth. His baptism is recorded in the Parish Registers and, although he died in Ireland, he is buried in a family vault in Handsworth. Both his ancestors and his descendants were prominent local figures — wealthy and respectable. But the historical importance of William Jeffcock lies in the fact that in 1843, he became the very first Mayor of Sheffield.
The Jeffcock family settled in Handsworth in the 17th century, having moved from Eckington, Derbyshire. The first record of the family name occurs in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Eckington in 1351. But they settled in the Handsworth parish and there are over 60 entries in the Parish Registers for members of the Jeffcock family between 1636 and a 1768.
John Jeffcock, the father of William, established the family name as coal Masters by becoming colliery engineer at Dore House Colliery in Handsworth. William was able to build upon his father's commercial success by entering the realm of the local government. He was keen to play an active role in the civic affairs and so became a candidate for Attercliffe ward in the town's first municipal elections on 1 November 1843.
Although he polled only 80 votes, William was elected. Meeting for the first time on 9 November 1843, the new town council unanimously chose William Jeffcock to be the first Mayor of Sheffield. He also became an Alderman and remained on the Council for 10 years. He was also nominated as a Justice of the Peace for the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1846 and he held a Commission in the West Yorkshire Yeomanry Cavalry for some time.
For many years, the Jeffcocks lived in nearby High Hazels John Jeffcock was the first to live there, but it was his son William who built a new mansion on the site in 1850. The closeness of the Jeffcock connection to Handsworth can be seen in St. Mary's churchyard. Two box tombs in memory of the family bear inscriptions to over a dozen Jeffcocks. There are tributes to members of the Jeffcock family in St. Mary's Church and there is a (disused) fountain and water trough bearing inscriptions to the family on a curve of Handsworth Road.
In 1844, William Jeffcock was succeeded as Sheffield's Mayor by his first cousin, Thomas Dunn, who was also a Handsworth resident. Dunn was elected to the first town council in 1843 and served on it for 16 years. He was an Alderman and soon became a distinguished figure in mid-Victorian Sheffield.
Dunn had a considered Liberal point of view and he took an active and prominent role in Sheffield politics. His intellect and popularity made many national Liberals, as well as local ones, seek to persuade him to stand for parliament. His funeral in 1871 was attended by many local dignatories — an indication of the very high esteem in which he was held by his friends and colleagues.
Actor Sean Bean, born 1959, grew up in Handsworth and attended Handsworth's Brook School (now a housing estate). Bean appeared in the films Lord of the Rings, Patriot Games and GoldenEye. He also starred in the historical TV series, Sharpe.
- Sheffield City Council - Handsworth
- Folio 308r, Great Domesday Book
- Treeton Web:Handsworth
- Hallamshire: The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield in the County of York, Joseph Hunter, Published by Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones. London 1819. see Wikisource s:Hallamshire. The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield in the County of York - in preparation (Feb. 2007)
- GENUKI: Handsworth parish registers: Dates and current locations etc
- Trenton Historical Society, New Jersey
- BENJAMIN HUNTSMAN AND "A GENTLEMAN OF THE TEMPLE", E. WYNDHAM HULME, Notes and Queries 1950 CXCV(mar04):99; doi:10.1093/nq/CXCV.mar04.99-b © 1950 by Oxford University Press
- CommuniGate | Jeffcock Connections